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Why You Should Hold on to American Water Works (AWK) Stock

Zacks Equity Research

We recently updated a research report on American Water Works Company AWK. The company’s decision to make regular investments, expand operations through organic and inorganic means, as well as manage and contain cost outlay is going to drive its performance.


American Water Works has plans to invest $8.8-$9.4 billion in the 2020-2024 time period and $20-$22 billion in the next decade through rate increases. The new water rates (effective Jan 1, 2020) will increase the company’s total revenues by $53 million. It still has rate cases worth $224 million pending in various jurisdictions, awaiting final order.

The company is expanding the customer base through organic initiatives and acquisitions. Till May 6, it added 9,500 customers to the existing customer base. Out of the total, 3,300 customers were added through the organic route. The 26 pending acquisitions as of May 6, 2020 — on completion — are expected to add 45,800 customers to its customer base. The acquired assets were immediately accretive to earnings of the company.

It has been successful in lowering the O&M efficiency ratio through systematic cost savings and increase in revenues. For the past 12-month period ended Mar 31, 2020, the company’s adjusted regulated O&M efficiency ratio improved to 34.5% from 35.5% in the comparable period of 2019. The improvement was primarily due to an increase in operating revenues and persistent focus on operating costs of the Regulated businesses.

Factors Acting as Headwinds

The company envisions improving the quality of buried water pipelines at a cost of more than $1 trillion in the next 25 years. Any disruption in the credit markets might make it difficult for the company to get the necessary or desired amount to fund capital improvements on favorable terms.

Majority of the existing water lines and main lines is nearing the end of their useful life. The company plans to invest billions of dollars over the long term to maintain the integrity of its systems. If the company fails to generate the desired returns due to the ongoing economic crisis, its margins could be hampered.

Price Performance

Shares of American Water Works have outperformed the industry in the past 12 months.

Zacks Rank and Key Picks

American Water Works currently has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). Some better-ranked stocks in the same industry include Middlesex Water Company MSEX, American States Water Company AWR and The York Water Company YORW. While Middlesex Water sports a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), the other two companies carry a Zacks Rank of 2 (Buy). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank stocks here.

Middlesex Water, American States Water and York Water Company delivered average positive earnings surprise of 2.2%, 5.9% and 13.6%, respectively, in the last four quarters.

The Zacks Consensus Estimate for 2020 earnings for Middlesex Water and American States Water has moved 1% and 1.8% upward, respectively, in the past 60 days. The same for York Water has moved 1.7% upward in the past 90 days.

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